By Wray Herbert
Paradoxically, the news of the government’s plans for grisly anti-smoking ads made me crave a cigarette. I quit smoking many years ago and rarely have a craving anymore, but seeing these ads brought it all back. It also reminded me of the unpleasantness of quitting, including the obsessive thoughts. My quitting strategy was to keep my mind and body busy all the time, in order to keep my thoughts of cigarettes at bay. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. I relapsed a few times before I finally quit for good.
There were quitters’ support groups available at the time, but the idea didn’t make sense to me. Why would I want to sit around with other dreary addicts and talk incessantly about the very thing I was trying to banish from my mind? Wouldn’t that just undermine my willpower and leave me more miserable?
Well, no, as it turns out. New science now suggests that the worst thing smokers can do is try not to think about cigarettes. Banishing cigarettes and matches and ashtrays from your neurons may lead temporarily to less smoking, but the banished thoughts quickly rebound — nudging smokers to light up even more than they do usually.